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Chapter 35

The cloudy sky and promise of rain in the air kept the beach fairly empty, except for some screeching sea birds and the occasional walker. Dressed in yoga pants and tee shirts, Mary and Kristin headed for the water’s edge.

Their walks were meant for relaxation, when they both geared up for the next week’s problems. But the tension level today was uncomfortable, thought Kristin. Kristin glanced at Mary, her stomach tight with worry. Her friend was unusually quiet. “Are we going to talk about the elephant in the room, or on the beach?” she asked, lips curling into a thin smile.

“Kristin, this family stuff with the twins is tough stuff. Not only is the whole situation emotionally charged, I am not exactly a neutral party. I’m also afraid that asking you tough questions may jeopardize our friendship.”

Kristin looked ahead, not making eye contact. She’d crossed a line. Would she lose the respect and friendship she cherished?

“I’m sorry, Mary. I know it’s a difficult situation. I needed someone I could trust and someone who is warm and caring. I know it was selfish of me to involve you in this business.”

Kristin knew this day would come. She didn’t really mind the emotional and personal cost to herself. Chad was history, although about to get out of prison. She had needed the money and used it for a good cause. Now, she just wanted Berit and Anders to get through this as best as possible. They were old enough to know the truth, or at least a semblance of it.

Mary grabbed Kristin’s arm and stopped walking. “Okay, here is the deal. I’m willing to be part of this process, but we need to promise each other that we will work through any negative feelings that arise. You are important to me, Kristin. I don’t want to lose your friendship.”

Kristin’s blue eyes glistened with tears. “Deal. I don’t want to lose you either.” The tension seemed to dissipate with the breeze and the raindrops.

“The hell with the walk. Let’s go upstairs and come up with a strategy.”

Over steaming cups of cappuccino and fresh croissants from the bakery Mary spoke of a plan.

“I have been thinking about how to approach Anders and Berit,” she began. “One of the biggest problems is that the twins are going to feel betrayed. An integral part of their lives has been a lie. It might be especially bad for Berit. She might feel that you kept Anders and gave her away. Building up that trust again will be crucial.”

Kristin swallowed hard. “I guess you’re right. I’ve been ignoring the ramifications.”

Mary softened her tone. “Listen to me, Kristin. I’m pointing out the worst part of the situation. The best part is that both Anders and Berit are well loved and well adjusted. Kids are resilient. As long as there is at least one loving adult in their life, they can get through most anything. Anders and Berit have three. You, Jackson and Ron.

“I think we can get around the trust violation, once. I just want to make sure there’s not another ‘truth’ that needs to come out.” Mary paused, not taking her eyes off Kristin.

Kristin took a deep breath and exhaled, returning Mary’s gaze. “Nothing else.”

“All right, the first step will be for me to meet with Anders and Berit. Maybe I can take them out for ice cream. I want to see what they think. Do they suspect anything? Have they had any family fantasies? After that, you, Jackson, Ron and I will talk about that conversation. I’ll provide guidelines for you three to tell the kids what happened.”

“But, Mary, we wanted you to tell them.”

Mary expected that response.

“No, that’s not the right way,” she said firmly. She took a couple of deep breaths and continued.

“Kristin, I know that facing them with this type of news will be scary, even nerve wracking. But it has to come from their parents. They are bound to have questions that only the three of you can answer. I will stay in the room while you tell them and provide guidance if I think the conversation is getting off track. The bottom line is that this type of life-altering information has to come from their parents. There really is no other way. At least no other right way.”


Early the next evening Mary sat with Anders and Berit at Palisto’s in downtown St. Petersburg. They served the best gelato this side of Italy. They each had three scoops of different flavors and were arguing about who had the best combination. Mary found an outdoor table that was shaded and off to the side. Night blooming jasmine fragranced the air from the overhead trellis.

“Thanks for taking us out for ice cream, Mary,” Berit said.

She was a sweet girl with a ready smile, Mary thought. She looked a lot like Kristin. Mary didn’t feel as close to her as she was to Anders, but knew that she could grow to like her just as much.

“My pleasure. I’ve been meaning to sneak out with you two for a while. You’re both planning on coming to my momma’s house for Christmas dinner with Kristin, Jackson and Ron, right?”

“Yup. Nonna said we can show Berit how to make cannoli.”

“That will be fun, not to mention delicious. Do you two do lots of things together?”

“We’ve known each other since we were born. He’s like my brother.”

From the mouths of babes, thought Mary. She continued to discuss the situations of their birth, what they knew or didn’t know. She was amazed how factual they were.

“Sometimes I even think we’re related,” Anders offered.

“Because you share the same birthday?”

“Nope,” Berit and Anders said at once.

“It’s about the freckle,” Berit said, hand over her mouth to smother the laughter.

“Yeah, we both have a freckle under our knee,” Anders said.

Mary saw them look at each other in silent communication. Nothing else was necessary.

“Isn’t that something?” Mary said. “I guess the important part is that we all have people who love us very much. Families are formed in many different ways.”


Mary and Kristin sat with Ron and Jackson in their family room two days later. Looking out over the soft white sand and gentle surf was reassuring. The twins were at sailing lessons down at the Pass-a-Grille Yacht Club. They were due home soon, courtesy of a car pooling parent.

“I think we are in better shape than I initially thought,” Mary said. “Berit and Anders are great kids and the three of you should be proud of their openness and affection for others. I think they suspect that there is something going on, but haven’t been able to put all the pieces together. They feel very close to one another and actually said they think of each other as brother and sister. They both feel they look a bit alike and then there is the freckle.”

“What freckle?” asked Kristin. Jackson and Ron exchanged looks.

“I think I know what freckle,” Jackson volunteered. “We were putting on suntan lotion a few weeks ago and Berit mentioned that she and Anders both have a freckle by their knee. I didn’t make a big deal over it.”

Mary leaned forward, looking at the three of them. “I suggest that you tell them what happened in a straight forward manner. Start by telling them that you have really good news for them, something that should make them happy. Don’t skip the clinical stuff, Berit already knows a lot about how it happens. Then tell them that they really are brother and sister and this is how your families came to be. Each of you should tell your part of the story, but all of you should emphasize that you each love each other very much. You are all good parents. Trust your instincts. There may be some fall out in weeks or months to come, but I think it will be okay.”

“I’m ready to tell them,” Ron said. “I have been wanting to do this for the past year or so. It doesn’t feel right with all of us being so close, to keep them from the truth.”

“Are we in agreement?” Jackson asked

Kristin nodded and turned to Mary. “Will you stay?”

“Yes, I promised you, right? But, I’m not going to say anything unless I feel we’re heading toward a danger zone.”

“Okay then, let’s do it.”

Fifteen minutes later the twins came running into the house. They looked at all the adults gathered together with serious faces.

“What’s wrong?” Anders asked. “Is someone sick?”

“No honey, come here. You too, Berit.” Kristin gathered them into her arms.

Mary watched as their unique family told of their journey.

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